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March 8, 2015 by

A Look Back on International Women’s Day

Today, March 8th, people around the world observe International Women’s Day, an event that first occurred in 1911 after the second International Women’s Conference of 1910 in Copenhagen, Denmark. This year’s theme of International Women’s Day is Make it Happen to “encourag[e] effective action for advancing and recognizing women.” In honor of today, we have compiled a round-up of relevant articles from the Lilith archive.

In the Fall/Winter 77/78 issue of Lilith, we reported on the 1977 National IWY (International Women’s Year) Conference, held November 19-21 in Houston. Prior to the conference, there was a series of meetings led by the Leadership Conference of National Jewish Women’s Organizations, in which leaders of Jewish women’s organizations made the decision not to let their focus be on supporting Jewish issues and defending Israel, as male Jewish leaders wanted them to focus on, and instead signed a commitment on working towards equality for women in all aspects of society. It marked the first time “Jewish women’s organizations joined together to put themselves on record in favor of the Women’s Agenda.” [Houston, Fall/Winter 77/78]

In 1976, Israeli feminist Joanne Yaron attended the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women, in Brussels. She was one of two Israelis who attended; the other was then-Knesset member Marcia Freedman. We shared an excerpt from Yaron’s testimony from the event in the Spring/Summer 1977 issue of Lilith. In it, she stated, “The concept of woman as woman, rather than as human being, is probably the greatest crime against women in Israel. It is from this concept, enshrined in the so-called Women’s Equal Rights Law of 1951, that all social and legally sanctioned crimes against women spring.” She continued that these “so-called protective laws for women” were in reality “disabilities” for women. [Crimes Against Woman in Israel, Spring/Summer 1977]

In 2008, Rebecca Honig Friedman reflected on International Women’s Day on the Lilith blog. In her post, she noted how Jews around the world marked the day and pointed how far behind Israel was in women’s equality compared to the United States. [Reflections on International Women’s Day]

In January, Elana Sztokman blogged about the Israeli government’s announcement that it was creating a team to “formulate a working plan to advance UN Resolution 1325 in Israel,” which would include women in “in all aspects of decision-making, especially around issues of peace and security.” The team’s leader Vered Swid told Sztokman that her vision is that every year on International Women’s Day “representatives from all government ministries report to the Prime Minister on what their offices did that year to advance gender equality.” [More Women Making Decisions in Israel]